While dodging questions about school shooting, Sheriff Scott Israel visits political group

BSO deputies failed to enter school during shooting

WESTON, Fla. – When Local 10 News caught up with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has avoided the media in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, he refused to answer questions about his agency's response before visiting an apparently sympathetic group, the Weston Democratic Club. 

Israel visited the club at a Wings Plus restaurant, where he was said to have blamed partisan Republican politics for the criticism against his agency after it was learned that deputies failed to enter the school while students and staff were being gunned down at the school.

In a CNN interview last month, Israel refused to take responsibility for his deputy's actions at the scene as well as the agency's failure to follow up on complaints prior to the massacre that Nikolas Cruz was a potential school shooter. 

When reporter Bob Norman caught up with him outside the restaurant, Israel refused to answer questions, instead opting to criticize Norman's reporting.   

"If you're disappointed in me, I think there's a lot of people disappointed in you," Norman countered. 

"You know, I disagree with you," Israel said. 

"You haven't heard?" Norman asked. "About the country being disappointed in you and the [Broward Sheriff's Office]?" 

"No, not at all," Israel said. "My job is to protect and serve the Broward County residents." 

"Did you do that?" Norman asked. "Did you do that?"

"But when the report is in, we'll have that conversation," Israel said.

"When the report is in, we'll have that conversation," Israel repeated. 

Israel was referring to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation ordered by Gov. Rick Scott after failures by the BSO in its response to the shooting came to light more than a week after the shooting. That report is expected by the end of the month.

Norman first caught up with Israel earlier Monday outside the BSO substation, where he addressed deputies there, according to sources, who said he has been visiting district offices to tell deputies that he intends to remain in office, even if Scott removes him from his post.

Scott called for the FDLE investigation into the BSO's response after more than 70 legislators called for his suspension. The BSO union, IUPA, which represents the rank and file, has also been heavily critical of the sheriff and is considering a vote of no-confidence, union president Jeff Bell said. 

In the CNN interview and in a letter to the governor, Israel insisted that only one deputy, Scot Peterson, was at the school while bullets flew, but radio transmissions later released by his own agency show that at least three other deputies were at the school during the shooting, with two of them -- Michael Kratz and Brian Goolsby -- reporting hearing the shots fired on the radio.

Norman asked Israel why the deputies didn't go in and also asked if he lied in his letter to the governor about the number of deputies present at the school. Instead of answering, Israel criticized Norman, saying he was disappointed in Norman's "constant reporting" and "misrepresentations." When asked what misrepresentations he was referring to, Israel didn't name any. 

Scott's office told Local 10 only that it is "obviously … concerned" about reports related to the BSO, which is why he asked the FDLE to investigate and also bolstered school security with troopers after Nikolas Cruz's brother was able to trespass at the school and a deputy fell asleep while on duty near the building where the shooting took place.